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Aberdeen University Library to end fees for late book returns

Head Librarian hopes to ease financial pressure for students

By Megan Widley

photo courtesy of Megan Widley

The head librarian of The Sir Duncan Rice Library, Simon Bains, has made the decision to end fees for late returns of books by students. In a move intended to ease stress and financial burden, students returning books late are no longer required to pay a late fee.

The late fees were originally introduced to encourage students to return books on time to make them available for other students to use.

However, as Bains told The Gaudie: 'Imposing fines to ensure books are returned on time is not as important to the Library as it once was, as the volume of lending is dropping because more information is available online.'

Online services, such as Primo, are easily available to students which allows them to access academic materials using their university logins. Having these services readily available is handy for students, however, it decreases the need to borrow books.

Bains believes this decision will benefit students. Commenting to The Gaudie, he said: 'It will reduce their financial burden, and it recognises that there are often very good reasons why students cannot return books on time, despite best intentions.'

When asking students their opinion of this new policy, the feedback was generally positive. One third year student told The Gaudie : 'I think that as a student who frequently borrows books, it brings relief to relieve that stress, however, it makes me wonder if it’ll put people off returning books on time making high demand books less available for other students.'

However, there are still protocols in place to encourage students to bring back books as quickly as possible, not for financial reasons, but to allow all students fair access to materials.

As Bains said, 'if a book is not returned on time this will still cause problems for any students who need it, so we will encourage timely returns by temporarily suspending borrowing rights until the book is returned and may charge for a replacement if a title has still not been returned two weeks after it was due.'

'While I think it is right not to ask students to pay fines,' Bains commented, 'I also have a responsibility to other students who are waiting for books that have not been returned.'

The cost-of-living crisis has had an extreme effect on the UK population. According to the Office for National Statistics, inflation reached 10.5% in December 2022, one of the highest rates since the 1980s.

Bains, a member of the University’s Cost of Living Group, recognised the negative effect the fees were having on students during an already financially challenging time, which is one of the main factors that pushed him to finalise the decision in early December 2022. This is also why the decision has been made permanently, as Bains declared, 'I won’t reverse it even if financial pressures ease.'

'Despite this decision resulting in a reduction of income, Bains believes it will make a positive impact on the students at the university. 'An outstanding fine can be a source of anxiety,' he said, 'so removing it should also have a positive impact on student wellbeing.'

The decision also has implications for inclusivity, as the library is 'recognising that some students are less able to afford to pay fines than others.'


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